The boom in holiday and second home ownership has long been a source of concern for island communities, fuelling fears that local residents – and particularly the young – will be driven away as demand pushes property prices ever higher.

Now bids on a house on Uist in the Outer Hebrides are being limited to islanders and first-time buyers in an attempt to tackle the situation and address anxiety about population decline.

The three-bed property in Daliburgh, South Uist, is on the market for offers over £100,000. It is being sold by the Hebridean Housing Partnership (HHP).

The decision to restrict who can attempt to buy the former social housing structure, which was built in the 1960s, has been “universally” welcomed as worries grow over a shortage of workers and an ageing population.

Prices in the Hebridean islands have rocketed in the course of the pandemic, with some properties advertised as being in “walk-in condition as holiday homes”. Recently, a former croft on Harris went on sale for £1.5 million.

In a further sign of intensifying pressure, an estimated 40 per cent of last year’s housing stock on both Tiree and West Harris were holiday homes. Prices in the chain of islands have more than doubled – from £65,189 in 2004 to £123,048 in 2019. Now action is being taken in a bid to prevent the situation escalating.

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Director of operations at HHP, John MacIver, said: “I’ve read about Cornwall where houses are in complete darkness in winter because they’re second homes. It’s a real challenge across the country and something which has become much more of an issue in the past few years.

“The second homes thing really began to push up property prices in the past five years, it’s been noticeable. Before they had been pretty stable. The £1.5m croft has caused a bit of a stooshie locally.

“People with significant money to burn who have made their money are looking for something to do. There are locals who have second homes and rent them out, it’s not only external.”

Mr MacIver said people who chose to settle on Uist could expect to be welcomed and that it was not intended to bar people from the mainland making it their home. He added: “It’s not specifically targeted at the indigenous population, it might be something that we do again in future. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

“We have got an ageing population and a decrease in working population, and significant difficulties in recruitment not only in the care sector but across many sectors in the islands now, we are not totally clear on the cause but Brexit may have contributed.

“The reaction at the moment has been universally positive.”

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Chief executive of HHP, Dena Macleod, said: “We discussed the property with the council and agreed the sale presented an opportunity to offer it to first-time buyers and contribute to the work being done locally to stem population decline.

“If this action can help one local young person in getting a foot on the ladder and to get a house of their own, it is a positive step.”

Pàdruig Moireasdan, 25, a crofter and musician from Grimsay who helped organise the Uist housing campaign, praised the initiative. “I think it is a fantastic step and a really exciting development and its something I would really like to see more of,” he said. “It comes as we are seeing, even over the last few months, estate agents on Harris advertising properties as being in walk-in condition as holiday homes, so to see this from HPP is a really welcome contrast. “I would like to see estate agents on the islands encourage vendors to put in these clauses for houses where possible.

“Over the past six months, I have known young interested buyers putting in offers well over the asking price but been beaten by someone who has come in with a cash offer or £20,000 or £30,000 over the asking price. That is the battle we face.”

The population of the Outer Hebrides is set to fall by 16 per cent by 2043 – equivalent to just over 4,000 people. A 25% increase in those aged 75 and over is also projected by 2028.

The Scottish Government is consulting on a proposed £50,000 “island bond” to encourage families to relocate. Dr Alasdair Allan, SNP MSP for MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, said: “HHP are to be commended for listening to concerns and putting restrictions in place for this sale.”